San Ramon Power Plant: Understanding the Coal-Fired Issues PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 25 November 2011 14:25

(First of three parts)
By AL TAN

On Saturday, 19th of November 2011, the latest batch of delegates from Zamboanga City’s west coast barangays arrived after a three-day educational tour to Sual Power Plant in Brgy. Pangascasan, Sual, Pangasinan. –  home of the country’s largest coal-fired power plant.

The all-expense paid exposure trip was part of the promotional campaign of the proposed San Ramon Power Plant  – a 100 MW coal-fired power station—  to be constructed inside the compound of the Zamboanga Economic Zone (ZAMBOECOZONE) in San Ramon, Talisayan, this city.

Obviously, the management of TeaM Energy (Tokyo Electric Power Company and Marubeni Corporation) has been spending hefty sums of company revenues in an effort to convince Zamboangueño stakeholders to see for themselves that a thermal power generating station could still be safe, responsible and environment-friendly.

This article would try to present objectively the facts and figures – all that an ordinary folk could possibly contain — in order to come up with an educated stand on this burning (pun intended) issue at hand.

WHY COAL?
Coal is primarily used as solid fuel. It is easy to burn, so it is easy to transfer energy. Ordinary households use coal for cooking purposes. The carbon is produced by simply heating wood or coconut shell (as in charcoal) in an enclosed space without air. Needless to say, the use of coal in the industry is basically an economic venture.

Unlike coals used in households, industrial coal is a combustible black or brownish-black sedimentary rock normally occurring in layers called coal beds or seams. The top coal producer in the world is China (with 2.38 Billion tons in 2006 alone), followed by USA and India.  About 70% of China’s electricity comes from coal.
MINING

In the Philippines, coal mining is a productive industry. In fact, the Department of Energy (DoE) through the state-owned Philippine National Oil Corporation (PNOC) continuously undertakes coal exploration especially in Mindanao area. A 2010 Statistical Energy Survey estimates that the Philippines total coal consumption is around 6.8 million tons – which is about 0.2% of the world’s total.

The most popular coal mine in Zamboanga Peninsula is the Malangas Coal Reservation, an underground coal mine straddling across the towns of Malangas, Diplahan and Imelda in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay. In 2009, its Integrated Little Baguio (ILB) colliery produced 91,440 metric tons of coal.

A worst tragedy happened in the then PNOC-operated Malangas coal mine sometime in 1995, when a huge methane gas explosion sets off a fireball that swept through the underground tunnel. More than a hundred workers perished in the unfortunate incident.  — Editor’s note:  Al Tan, an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, is a community leader in Ayala, Zamboanga City. His crossword puzzle, ZIGZAGGER appeared in the pages of this newspaper from 1999-2003. He also used to write opinions through his column, AIRTIGHT. His brainchild, TRIVIAX —a 28-paged trivia and crossword booklet— was published and distributed nationwide by Universal Publishing Incorporated in the year 2000.